U.S. Senate Votes to End “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
December 18, 2010 by Carolyn Simon, Deputy Director of Digital Media
Today the U.S. Senate voted on legislation that will allow for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). This historic action comes on the heels of the passage of an identical bill Wednesday in the U.S. House of Representatives. President Obama has said that he will sign DADT repeal into law. “Today, America lived up to its highest ideals of freedom and equality. Congress recognized that all men and women have the right to openly serve their country,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “Plenty of people had already planned the funeral for this legislation. Today, we pulled out a victory from what was almost certain defeat just a few days ago. We are grateful to President Obama, Majority Leader Reid and Sens. Lieberman, Collins and countless others for their dogged determination to repeal DADT."
Today’s vote caps off two weeks of frenetic, roller-coaster activity. Last week, the Senate voted for the second time against allowing debate to begin on the National Defense Authorization Act, to which DADT repeal was attached. As a result, Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced a stand-alone repeal bill in the Senate. This Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a DADT bill sponsored by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Representative Patrick Murphy (D-PA). That bill was advanced to the Senate and voted on today. DADT was made a law seventeen years ago and is the only U.S. law that punishes people for simply telling the truth. Since the law went into effect, over 14,000 gay and lesbian service members have been discharged from our nation’s military simply because they were gay or lesbian. An estimated 66,000 gays and lesbians are currently on active-duty.
Twenty-three studies over the past fifty years, including most recently a comprehensive study by the Pentagon, have concluded the same thing: that there would be no to minimal impact on force cohesion or unit readiness by allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. military. Thirty-countries currently allow gays and lesbians to serve in their nation’s armed forces. Over the past two years, HRC has worked steadily, including dedicating over $3 million in financial resources, to bring about today’s successful outcome. Click here to see a summary of our work. Senator Joe Lieberman, the sponsor of the Senate bill, added his perspective to this historic day. “This ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010’ removes a law that discriminates against military service members based solely on their sexual orientation and also harms our national security. This historic day has been seventeen years in the making and would not have happened without the leadership of Joe Solmonese and the Human Rights Campaign.”
“This is an historic moment. Like our closest allies, the United States’ Armed Forces should welcome the service of any qualified individual who is willing and capable of serving our country,” said Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine). “And, I agree with Defense Secretary Gates that it is critical that the issue is decided by Congress, not the courts.” Following enactment of this legislation, the repeal of DADT will happen only after certification by the President, Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that policies have been written to implement repeal and compliance with these polices is consistent with military readiness. The Human Rights Campaign issues a critical warning to service members that repeal of DADT is not effective immediately and service members are still at risk of being discharged on the basis of their sexual orientation until certification occurs and an additional 60 days have passed.
Click here to see the Pathway to Final Repeal. “This has been a long fought battle, but this failed and discriminatory law will now be history,” added Solmonese. “Congress now joins the majority of our troops and the American public in the common sense belief that on the battlefield, it does not matter whether a service member is lesbian, gay or straight – what matters is that a service member gets the job done. The President can now fulfill his promise and sign this repeal legislation into law. After signing this legislation, we call on the President and Secretary of Defense to act expeditiously to complete the steps necessary to implement final repeal. ”